The Overlooked Agile Topic: Psychological Safety

The Overlooked Agile Topic: Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is an essential aspect of Agile teams that is often overlooked, despite its significant impact on team performance and collaboration. This concept involves creating an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, asking questions, and admitting mistakes without fear of judgment or retribution. This post will explore the importance of psychological safety in Agile teams and discuss why it is frequently disregarded.

The Importance of Psychological Safety in Agile Teams

  1. Improved Collaboration and Communication

Psychological safety promotes open communication and collaboration among team members. When individuals feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas, teams are more likely to achieve better outcomes. Moreover, psychological safety encourages team members to ask questions and provide feedback, which contributes to continuous improvement and learning.

  1. Fosters Innovation and Creativity

Agile teams rely on innovation and creativity to adapt to changing environments and deliver high-quality products. Psychological safety encourages team members to take risks and experiment with new ideas, leading to improved problem-solving and innovation (Nembhard & Edmondson, 2006).

  1. Reduces Turnover and Increases Job Satisfaction

A psychologically safe environment contributes to increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates. When team members feel respected and supported, they are more likely to stay with the organization and be engaged in their work.

Why Psychological Safety is Often Overlooked

  1. Lack of Awareness

Many organizations and team leaders are simply unaware of the concept of psychological safety and its importance in team performance. As a result, they might not prioritize creating a safe environment for their team members, leading to decreased performance and job satisfaction.

  1. Misplaced Priorities

Some organizations and team leaders may prioritize short-term goals, such as meeting deadlines and reducing costs, over creating a psychologically safe environment. Unfortunately, this short-sighted approach can lead to long-term consequences, including reduced team effectiveness and increased turnover.

  1. Cultural Barriers

In some organizations, hierarchical structures and power dynamics can create barriers to psychological safety. Team members may hesitate to speak up or admit mistakes for fear of retribution or judgment from their superiors. To foster psychological safety, organizations need to promote a culture that values openness, collaboration, and learning.


Psychological safety is a critical component of high-performing Agile teams. It fosters collaboration, innovation, and job satisfaction, leading to better outcomes and reduced turnover. To create a psychologically safe environment, organizations and team leaders must prioritize open communication, encourage risk-taking, and promote a culture of continuous learning.


Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly.

Nembhard, I. M., & Edmondson, A. C. (2006). Making it safe: The effects of leader inclusiveness and professional status on psychological safety and improvement efforts in health care teams. Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Edmondson, A. C., & Lei, Z. (2014). Psychological Safety: The History, Renaissance, and Future of an Interpersonal Construct. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. 

Why Companies Struggle to Embrace the Lean Startup Approach (and How to Overcome It)

Why Companies Struggle to Embrace the Lean Startup Approach (and How to Overcome It)

You've probably heard of Eric Ries' groundbreaking book, "The Lean Startup." The methodology has revolutionized the way many entrepreneurs and businesses approach product development and innovation. But, despite its proven success, some companies still struggle to adopt the Lean Startup approach. Why is that? Let's dive into the reasons and explore how to overcome these challenges.

  1. The Clash with Traditional Culture: The Lean Startup approach encourages experimentation, rapid iteration, and learning from failure. But let's face it – that can be a tough pill to swallow for organizations with a more conservative culture. To make it work, companies need to shift their mindset and embrace a more agile way of working.
  2. Fear of the Unknown (aka Resistance to Change): People are creatures of habit, and adopting a new methodology like Lean Startup can be daunting. It's essential to address this resistance and help employees understand the benefits of a more agile and collaborative approach .
  3. Missing the Boss's Support: Leadership buy-in is crucial for the Lean Startup approach to take off. If top management isn't on board or doesn't fully grasp the principles, the methodology's chances of success are slim.
  4. The Stigma of Failure: Nobody likes to fail, right? But in the world of the Lean Startup, failure is an opportunity to learn and iterate. Companies need to reframe their perspective on failure and view it as a stepping stone to success.
  5. Short-termism Strikes Again: It's tough to break free from the short-term results mindset, especially when quarterly reports dictate the company's direction. However, the Lean Startup approach demands a longer-term perspective that values learning and growth.
  6. Metric Mayhem: You can't improve what you don't measure, but choosing the right metrics can be tricky. Organizations need to ditch vanity metrics and focus on actionable data that truly reflects their progress in the Lean Startup journey.
  7. Resource Realities: Time, talent, and money – these are the resources needed to experiment and iterate. Companies may struggle to allocate these resources effectively, but it's essential to invest in the Lean Startup process for long-term success.
  8. Customer Connection Conundrum: Talking to customers is a vital part of the Lean Startup methodology. However, some companies have limited access to their customer base or face regulatory hurdles, making it challenging to gather feedback and validate assumptions.
  9. Scaling the Summit: Small teams and startups can more easily adopt the Lean Startup approach, but scaling it to a larger organization is a different ball game. It takes careful planning and coordination to maintain the methodology's core principles across multiple divisions or product lines.

Conclusion: Adopting the Lean Startup approach can be tough, but it's worth the effort. Companies that commit to embracing this agile, customer-centric mindset can reap the rewards of increased innovation and adaptability. So, let's learn from Eric Ries and tackle these challenges head-on. After all, there's no better time to start than now!

Reference: Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Crown Publishing Group.

Why Agile Implementations Fail

Why Agile Implementations Fail

Why Agile Implementations Fail

Have you ever wondered why some companies fail when trying to implement agile methodologies? Well, let me tell you, there are a few reasons.

First of all, if management isn't fully on board with the cultural shift that agile requires, the teams are going to struggle. Agile is all about taking risks and experimenting, so if the top brass isn't committed, the teams will likely revert to old ways of working.

Another reason is that teams don't get enough training and coaching. Agile is complex and takes time to learn. Without proper training and coaching, teams may struggle to adapt, and the implementation is bound to fail.

Communication and collaboration are also super important in agile. Without these, teams can easily misunderstand each other, leading to delays and mistakes.

While tools can be helpful, they shouldn't be relied on too heavily. Agile is all about people and their interactions, and while tools can facilitate that, they can't replace it. Teams should focus on building strong relationships and communication skills.

Lastly, teams need to be adaptable. Agile is meant to be flexible, so if teams are too rigid in their approach, they'll struggle to make the necessary changes.

So, there you have it. To avoid these pitfalls, companies need to be fully committed to agile, invest in training and coaching, communicate and collaborate effectively, use tools wisely, and remain adaptable. With these things in place, they'll have a much better chance of success.

Applying the Stacey Model: When is Agile the Right Fit for your Project?

Applying the Stacey Model: When is Agile the Right Fit for your Project?

The Stacey model is a framework developed by Ralph Stacey that categorizes complex problems into four domains: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. The model considers the degree of certainty of the problem and the level of agreement on what needs to be done.

  • Simple: These are problems that are well-defined, with clear goals, and solutions that have been tried and tested before. There is a high level of certainty, and everyone agrees on what needs to be done. In this domain, traditional project management approaches work best.

  • Complicated: These are problems that require expertise, analysis, and multiple steps to solve. There is some level of uncertainty, but experts can agree on the approach. In this domain, traditional project management approaches can work, but some Agile principles such as iterative development and frequent feedback can also be useful.

  • Complex: These are problems that are unpredictable and have many interdependent factors. There is a high level of uncertainty, and no one knows the best solution. In this domain, Agile approaches such as Scrum and Kanban work best because they allow for experimentation and adaptation as the project progresses.

  • Chaotic: These are problems that are urgent, unpredictable, and require immediate action. There is no agreement on what needs to be done, and there is a high level of uncertainty. In this domain, Agile approaches that emphasize rapid experimentation and quick decision-making, such as Lean Startup, can be useful.

The Stacey model recognizes that not all problems can be solved with the same approach. Each problem has unique characteristics and requires a different level of complexity and uncertainty to be addressed. In project management, it's important to understand the nature of the problem you are trying to solve to determine which approach will be the most effective.

The simple and complicated domains are more straightforward and can be solved with traditional project management approaches that rely on proven methods and techniques. These domains require a clear understanding of the problem, the goals, and the steps required to achieve those goals. In these cases, a project manager can rely on techniques such as Waterfall or Six Sigma to plan, execute, and deliver the project.

On the other hand, the complex and chaotic domains require a different approach. These domains are characterized by uncertainty, unpredictability, and a lack of clear agreement on the best course of action. In such cases, it's important to use Agile approaches that emphasize flexibility, experimentation, and adaptability. Agile methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, and Lean Startup are designed to address complex and unpredictable problems by allowing teams to iterate, experiment, and learn as they progress.

By using the Stacey model to categorize projects, organizations can select the most appropriate approach for each project. This can help teams achieve better outcomes by matching the approach to the problem at hand. Using the Stacey model can also help teams avoid using an overly rigid or inflexible approach to a problem that requires more experimentation and adaptability.

In summary, the Stacey model provides a useful framework to categorize problems based on their level of complexity and uncertainty. By doing so, organizations can choose the most appropriate approach for each project, whether that be a traditional project management approach or an Agile approach.


  1. Stacey, R. D. (1993). Strategic management and organizational dynamics: The challenge of complexity. Pearson Education.

  2. Larman, C., & Vodde, B. (2010). Scaling lean & agile development: thinking and organizational tools for large-scale Scrum. Pearson Education.

  3. Schwaber, K. (2004). Agile project management with Scrum. Microsoft Press.

  4. Sutherland, J., & Schwaber, K. (2011). The Scrum guide.

  5. Highsmith, J. (2009). Agile project management: creating innovative products. Addison-Wesley Professional.


Waterfall is not always bad

Waterfall is not always bad

Waterfall is not always bad

#agilecoachingtip Waterfall is not always bad! Some projects are inherently phased-based. One recent example was a vendor selection project that I was asked to assess. It was being mismanaged using Scrum. I could list a hundred different examples like that. Can you still be "agile?" Yes!
- You can still meet everyday
- You can still have a backlog
- You can still have a Product Owner (and you should)
- You can still have a servant leader
- You can still have rolling wave planning
- and more...
Don't assume that a project can't be both waterfall and agile.


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